L'Oeil-Cerveau: nouvelles histoires de la peinture moderne

Alliez, Eric and Martin, Jean-Clet [Collaborator] (2007) L'Oeil-Cerveau: nouvelles histoires de la peinture moderne. Paris, France : Vrin. 479p. ISBN 9782711619092


This book offers a new philosophical history of modern painting in France from Delacroix to Cezanne, via Manet, Seurat and Gauguin. Basing itself on statements by the painters themselves, it reconstructs this history as a series of changes in the relationship between the eye and the brain. In particular, it charts what it calls the ‘denaturalisation' and ‘cerebralization' of the painter's eye, drawing upon a philosophical interpretation of Hyppolite Taine's psycho-physiological studies of hallucination. (The guiding proposition of Taine's writings is that every perception, every image, and every sensation are by their very nature hallucinatory.) It is argued that the ‘Eye-Brain' of the modern painter is best conceived as the vector of a ‘monism of sensation' that seeks to produce a ‘true hallucination' of the world. As such, it produces an experimental practice that is irreducible to relations between subject and object, as conventionally conceived. It invents a new form of the cerebral, freeing the eye from its character as a fixed organ and from its representational function. This experimentation finds its philosophical correlate in Goethe's interrogation of colour, from which the book sets out. The history of modern painting in France is thereby presented as a continuous destruction of systems of representation and an ever-renewed deconstruction of the notion of the image.

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